O’Melveny & Myers continues to be a fertile hunting ground.

Partners Robert “Bobby” Schwartz and Victor Jih joined the ranks of recent departures when they moved last week to the Century City office of Irell & Manella.

The moves come only a few months after Carla Christofferson, former managing partner of O’Melveny’s downtown L.A. office, left her post to join Century City engineering giant Aecom as executive vice president and general counsel.

Before that, O’Melveny took a big hit in November when longtime rival Latham & Watkins poached six entertainment partners, including Christopher Brearton, who had served as O’Melveny’s managing partner in Century City.

Schwartz, an entertainment and business litigator, said he had been mulling a move before his colleagues started leaving the firm, but added that their departures played a small role in his decision to join O’Melveny.

“I’d be kidding us if I said it wasn’t,” he said. “I’m sure on some subconscious level it probably told me that change can be good and there are other opportunities that one should at least consider.”

O’Melveny had little to say about the move last week.

“We wish them the best,” an O’Melveny spokeswoman said in a statement. “Our Century City-based trial lawyers will continue to handle the most cutting-edge, high-profile litigation matters, including in the entertainment industry, as part of one of the largest litigation teams in all of Southern California.”

The firm declined further comment.

Solana Beach legal recruiter Larry Watanabe, who helped coordinate last week’s move, said it’s rare to see so many prominent attorneys leave one firm in such a short period.

“At a minimum, it’s concerning,” Watanabe said. “O’Melveny can paint it any way they want to, but these are significant departures of people who, in many cases, held some sort of management role.”

O’Melveny’s recent financial performance, he said, likely contributed to some attorneys’ decision to part ways with the firm. Combined revenue from its 15 offices fell 9.3 percent last year to $665 million, the lowest level in more than a decade. Average profits per partner also slipped 8 percent last year to $1.59 million.

Irell, on the other hand, saw average profits per partner climb 8 percent last year to $3.63 million.

Jih, who specializes in complex litigation, said Schwartz has been his mentor since he began working at O’Melveny 19 years ago. That was a major factor in his move, but, he added, he also desired a fresh start.

“What I liked about school was every year you got a restart. You could think about what you’ve done,” Jih said. “When you start working that just doesn’t happen anymore. In hindsight, it’s just energizing to say I’m starting over new.”

Westward Expansion

Chicago firm Sidley Austin revealed plans last week to open an office in Century City – its second in Los Angeles after its downtown L.A. outpost – and increase its focus on the media and entertainment industry.

Sidley hired Dan Clivner, longtime head of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in Century City, to lead its new outpost. Clivner, a prominent corporate and private equity attorney, will become co-managing partner of Sidley’s L.A. offices.

“One of the things that attracted us to Dan is his experience in the media and entertainment industry,” said Mike Kelley, co-managing partner. “We’ve been in Los Angeles long enough that we understand the local market. … And over the last number of years, the media and entertainment industry, including digital media, has become more and more important.”

Sidley is still finalizing its lease in Century City, so Kelley was unable to provide specific details on the office’s opening. It’s unclear whether any existing Sidley lawyers will relocate, but Kelley alluded to more changes on the horizon.

“We do expect that with Dan joining us, and our commitment to opening an office in Century City, that we will be an attractive destination for other lawyers who focus their practice in media and entertainment as well as new technologies,” he said.

Clivner, who is still a partner at Simpson Thatcher, declined to comment.

More Moves

Irell has hired Michael Fleming, former chief administrative judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, as of counsel in the firm’s Century City office. … Raymond Aghaian has joined the Beverly Hills office of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. … Munger Tolles & Olson has tapped Brad D. Brian to serve as co-managing partner. … Gary Concoff has joined Rufus-Isaacs Acland & Grantham in Beverly Hills as partner. … Robins Kaplan has appointed Roman Silberfeld, partner in the firm’s Century City office, to its newly created national trial chair position.

Staff reporter Cale Ottens can be reached at cottens@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 221.

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